Amendment 35

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 6:15 pm ar 14 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Lord Scriven:

Moved by Lord Scriven

35: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—“Applicability of decisionsA decision-maker must not make a decision relating to the removal to the Republic of Rwanda of a person who arrived in the United Kingdom before this Act has received Royal Assent.”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment and the amendment to Clause 9, page 7, line 1 in the name of Lord German, seeks to ensure that the Act does not apply retrospectively.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, because of the lateness of the hour, I will speak to this suite of important amendments quite quickly, because I am sure that other noble Lords want to listen to some of the expanding debate. The amendments are about the reporting, commencement and costing of the novel Bill and the treaty.

Again, with this group of amendments there are some significant and fundamental issues. Amendments 35 and 90, tabled by my noble friend Lord German and which I have added my name to, have some fundamental issues. The reasoning for this is that Clause 9(2) states that the Act can apply to anyone who receives a decision on their asylum claim after the Act comes into force—a decision irrespective of when they arrived. Both amendments would mean that a decision under the Bill cannot be made for someone who arrived before the Act received Royal Assent. Currently, it is unclear what is happening to those people who arrived in the UK to claim asylum on or after 7 March 2023. It is thought that for people arriving to claim asylum on or after 20 July 2023, their cases are still in limbo, not being admitted to the asylum system.

If Section 2 of the Illegal Migration Act is commenced, the Government will be under a duty to make arrangements for the removal of adults and accompanied children. Therefore, can the Minister clarify whether the asylum claims of people who arrived in the UK on or after 7 March 2023 are being admitted into the asylum system for consideration in the UK, and are they in the flow processing cohort?

Amendment 90 seeks to ensure that the Bill does not apply to the 33,000 asylum applications submitted from 20 July to the end of 2023, or at any other time before the Bill receives Royal Assent. It is worth noting —my noble friend Lady Hamwee has made these points to me—that on principle, law should not be changed retrospectively. People should know on any given day what the rules are and should not be told at a later date that an action has now brought different consequences. Can the Minister therefore say what the Government’s assessment is of how many people will be removed in the first three to six months after the Bill passes, and who those individuals will be? Will they be people who arrive after the Bill receives Royal Assent or those who are already in the system?

Because of the lateness of the hour, I will finish there, other than to say that Amendment 71—again in my noble friend Lord German’s name, and to which I have added my name—talks about reporting. We as a country, and your Lordships’ House, are not aware of what happens to the reporting mechanism in the treaty, as regards the openness of both the monitoring committee and the joint committee. Amendment 71 seeks to ensure that every six months the Secretary of State lays a statutory instrument to this Parliament—if this Parliament is sovereign and, to use the phrase of the noble and learned Lord the Minister, it becomes the court of Parliament on the Bill—stating that Rwanda continues to be a safe country, and if either House rejects that statutory instrument, the statement that Rwanda is a safe country must cease.

With that in mind, I look forward to other noble Lords’ amendments and their views about the treaty, the commencement, the monitoring and the cost of the Bill, and I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, just to be clear, I will be very “Committeeish” about this group of amendments. In the light of that, I will just ask a couple of questions relating to my Amendments 69 and 87, which deal with the value for money and cost of the Bill.

I refer to the point that I made earlier, that the Committee needs no reminding that the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office required a ministerial direction because he repeated his earlier advice to the Public Accounts Committee on 11 December that the Home Office had no evidence that the Bill provided value for money. Therefore, can the Minister start with respect to my Amendments 69 and 87, which call for an ongoing assessment of the costs, as well as an economic impact assessment? Will he share with us a little more detail about the conclusions that Ministers have come to about value for money as opposed to what the Permanent Secretary said? No doubt, the Minister will say that it will act as a deterrent and therefore that is the value for money, but of course that is exactly the point that the Permanent Secretary was also making, that there is no evidence that it will act as a deterrent either. It would be interesting to hear the Minister’s assertion and the evidence for it other than just the belief that this will act as a deterrent.

Perhaps the Minister will update us on how much has been spent so far. My calculation got to nearly £400 million. What is the budget, is that the amount that has already been spent, and what is the projected spend over the next period, should the Government get their way with the Bill?

Amendment 86 refers specifically to the establishment of the monitoring committee. I remind the Committee that much of our discussion has been about the Bill asserting that Rwanda is safe and all of us saying that the Government are making an assertion about the factual situation now, whereas the treaty talks about how Rwanda may or will become safe should certain things happen. I have tabled Amendment 86, supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, simply to get some more information about the monitoring committee referred to in Article 15 of the treaty. The particular word in my Amendment 86 to which I refer the Committee is “fully”, rather than a part being established here and another part there.

The Government have made all sorts of points about the monitoring committee. Given that it is supposed to oversee the operation of the treaty and the improvements that are supposed to happen in Rwanda to satisfy us that it is a safe country, could the Minister tell us where we are on the monitoring committee? I apologise if other noble Lords are up to date on this, but perhaps he could tell me how many members of the committee have been appointed, how many are expected to be appointed, where they come from, whether the committee has yet agreed the terms of reference that it is supposed to agree and whether they have been published. I have not seen them; I do not know whether anybody else has, but have they been published yet? If not, when will they be published?

There should be an enhanced initial monitoring period; how is that going? Has it started? It says it will be for a minimum of three months; presumably that does not start until the treaty is enacted or has it started already? When does it start? We need to know when that initial period of three months ends. Can it be extended to become six months, if deemed necessary? The treaty tells us that the monitoring committee needs to engage a support team. What or who is the support team? Has it been engaged and who is funding it?

Article 15(9) says:

“The Monitoring Committee shall develop a system and process to enable Relocated Individuals and legal representatives to lodge confidential complaints direct to the Monitoring Committee of alleged failures to comply with the obligations in this Agreement (including as to the treatment of a Relocated Individual), or any element of the processing of their asylum claim in accordance with this Agreement”.

How is that going and where are we with that?

Obviously, this is Committee, which is the time to ask some of these detailed questions. The wonderful philosophical discussions and debates that we have had are very important to this Bill, but there are some details in there that are fundamental for the Committee and this Chamber to understand, given the importance of the monitoring committee to the Bill. We need to understand how that is going as we continue to consider what amendments may be brought forward on Report— for us to consider further and maybe even vote on—on how the monitoring is going, how the Government expect it to happen and what decisions we may or may not come to on commencement.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I speak to Amendment 74 in my name in this group and associate myself with all the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked. I will also, with this amendment, seek to follow the money.

We heard in the previous group but one what I thought was an interesting exchange between the noble Lord, Lord Green, and the Minister with regard to the concern about the social fabric and social contract of our nation when it comes to the high level of migration. It is the case that, over the past five years, the number of those seeking asylum in the UK has gone up from 35,000 to 75,000—that is correct.

Legal migration has gone up from 184,000 a year to 740,000 a year. The concern about the social fabric of our nation is less about those who are seeking asylum and fleeing danger; it is about those who migrated legally under powers that the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, was passionate that we had. She was passionate that we had those powers; we now have an Australian-style points system and it has catastrophically failed. On that jolly point, I will give way to the noble Lord, Lord Green.

Photo of Lord Green of Deddington Lord Green of Deddington Crossbench 6:30, 14 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, the noble Lord is completely right on his numbers; migration is about 10 times, sometimes more, the inflow of asylum seekers. But the issue that concerns public opinion—maybe because it is always on television or because it is the only thing that the Government are talking about—is indeed asylum. None the less, the real problem, as the noble Lord implied, is the scale of immigration, and we should be under no illusions about what that means for our future.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I am grateful to the noble Lord and, to some extent, I agree with him. If we have a legal migration system that has been a catastrophic failure, and the Government then seem to wish to scapegoat those fleeing conflict or danger to claim asylum here, I am not surprised that this dominates the debate. But the Government should not look at us when it comes to that situation.

I found it interesting that, when I asked the noble Lord, Lord Green, who supports this Bill, what impact it would have on that point with regards to the backlog—the Wembley Stadium—he gave me an honest answer and said that he did not know. I think he said that the Government do not know; I think he said no one knows. Yet we have paid nearly £400 million not to know. It is the most expensive question never to be answered in the history of the Treasury.

It will get worse, and Amendment 74 therefore tries to get a bit more detail about this. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, is absolutely right. The Permanent Secretary did not seek ministerial direction simply, as the Minister alluded to before, because there was maybe a question around this, because it is novel. The Permanent Secretary is the accounting officer; it is his duty to say whether a policy would be value for money for the British taxpayer. He was unable to do that, so he asked to be overruled by the Minister. What was quite extraordinary was that, as we now know from his submission in December, part of the ministerial direction was not to tell Parliament of an extra £100 million that was given as a second tranche under this scheme—another large swathe of funding.

We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Murray, during the passage of what became the Illegal Migration Act, that the costs of the scheme were dependent on a per-person basis. That was correct, but we now know that it was not the full answer. Part of the scheme will be on a per-person basis, but the £100 million was a credit line to the Government of Rwanda. So I would like the Minister, when he responds to this debate, to be quite clear and to tell us what that credit line is being used for. We do not know and, if the court of Parliament is to make a judgment, we need a bit more evidence.

The Hope hostel, which is the receiving centre for the people who are due to be relocated, is a private business. It is operated on a private sector contract and the Government say that they will not release information about what we are paying for because it is a Rwandan private sector contract. The Minister said to me in his letter that the Home Office cannot divulge information about the contracts that other countries have made—but we have paid for it. Not only have we paid for it, we will be paying for it. So I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us if there will be another tranche of funding for the Hope hostel in the next financial year, because it is on an annual rolling contract.

This issue also comes down to the fact that that centre can accommodate 200 people, with a typical processing time of a fortnight, I was told. So that will be a maximum of about 5,000 people a year, unless there are Hope hostels 2, 3 and 4 that we will be paying for. We do not know yet. If that is the case and we look at the Wembley Stadium backlog of at least 90,000 people, at 5,000 people a year it is going to take nearly 20 years to clear it.

So far, it has cost just shy of £400 million. What if it is on a per-person basis? That is where the noble Lord, Lord Murray, was absolutely right because, after we pleaded for the impact assessment of the Illegal Migration Bill, he gave that to us and we were duly grateful. It shows that per-person relocation will cost £169,000, on Home Office estimates. I remind the Committee that that is £63,000 more than processing someone and them staying here in the UK. It is 60 grand per person more expensive to the British taxpayer to relocate them in a scheme that is going to take 20 years and has already cost us nearly half a billion pounds.

If it will be 5,000 people a year, what are we looking at if we times that by £169,000? In one year, that will be just shy of £1 billion for two flights. That is fine if this is about the headlines and the Prime Minister saying, “I’ve got the planes taking off”. It is not fine for the British taxpayer. It is equally not fine if the whole purpose of this was to be a deterrent, because the noble Lord, Lord Green, is correct in one respect: if you are clearing the backlog, you want fewer people to come in the first place. That would require a deterrent rate of 100%. The Government’s best estimate, on a medium-term basis, is that there will likely be a break-even point with a deterrent effect of 50%. That is in the impact assessment. So the Home Office itself is estimating that this whole deterrence scheme is just going to halve the number of boats.

We already know that that does not matter, of course, because the Prime Minister announced in the new year that the deterrent effect was working. But we know that it is not, so I would be grateful if the Minister could outline what has been spent within MEDP—the migration and economic development partnership—in a scheme-by-scheme, line-by-line and project-by-project statement. If the scheme came under official development assistance, it would have to be put down under the DevTracker. But it is not under the DevTracker system of transparency at the FCO: it is from the Home Office, so I would like to see the equivalent of that published and the Minister to state whether the rolling contract is to be paid for another year, going forward. I would be very grateful if the Minister could say, at the end of year 1 of this scheme being in operation—just year 1, I am not going to be too ambitious—what the deterrent effect, the total cost and the per-person cost will be. Ultimately, if we are talking about a Budget coming up, surely we should be straight with the British taxpayer.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Llafur

My Lords, I will introduce my Amendments 81 and 82 in this group, which I have the privilege of sharing with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I remind the Committee that the Government concede that this policy is novel and might even concede that it is controversial. There are grave concerns about whether Rwanda is currently safe and further concerns, raised eloquently earlier today, that even if it becomes safe at some point—for example, as a result of the successful implementation of the treaty—it may not be safe for ever.

Throughout these debates, the Government have relied heavily on the principle of parliamentary sovereignty—not executive sovereignty. That is why Amendment 81, which I share with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and which is supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, makes commencement a matter for the Secretary of State but to be approved by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and both Houses of Parliament by way of resolution. It is hence not executive fiat. Currently, Clause 9(1) says:

“This Act comes into force on the day on which the Rwanda Treaty enters into force”.

Treaty ratification is for the most part a matter for the Executive, but if we are to be the high court of Parliament and oust the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts of the land, parliamentary sovereignty at the very least requires parliamentary commencement. I leave to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, Amendment 82 on his system of rolling sunsets.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Ceidwadwyr

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness and entirely agree with what she has said on Amendment 81. My amendment is an additional concept. The concern has become apparent in Committee that, if Rwanda can become safe, it may also cease to be safe. It is important that we should have in place a mechanism for determining if it becomes unsafe, so that the provisions in the Bill cease to operate. That is what my Amendment 82 seeks to do.

I have called it rolling sunsets, but this is what I have in mind: the amendment from the noble Baroness triggers the implementation of the Bill for a period of two years, in the circumstances that she set out, and at the expiration of that period, if the Government want another two years or any other period, they must get an affirmative resolution of both Houses. Before they can get that, the procedure outlined by the noble Baroness must be complied with, including a report from the Joint Committee as to safety. If they want to roll it on for a third period of two years and so on, each time Parliament would be given the opportunity of receiving a report and triggering the extension of the Bill. In that way, rolling assessments of safety could be provided.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Llafur

My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti’s amendment, as amended by that of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. It is incredibly important that the Act comes into force only when there is satisfaction that Rwanda has become a safe country and a rolling assessment can be made. I say that subject to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, indicating to us earlier—we were very excited by this—that he would tell us whether Parliament could in some way reopen whether its judgment on whether it was a safe country had changed. He told us that the noble Lord, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, would tell us how this would work on a later amendment. I anticipate that he will tell us on this very amendment how Parliament can in some way be activated to get rid of it. I am very excited to hear that, because at the moment I cannot see how it could without the amendments of my noble friend and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.

I will raise two points about where we are at the moment. The first is about when the future Act will come into force. Clause 9 says:

“This Act comes into force on the day on which the Rwanda Treaty enters into force”.

One would envisage that the treaty will not enter into force until the Government are satisfied that Rwanda is safe. That is a minimum requirement for a Minister. I assumed that that was the position, but I then had the misfortune to look at the agreement that the country has entered into with Rwanda. It says:

“This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of receipt of the last notification by the Parties”—

Rwanda and the United Kingdom—

“that their internal procedures for entry into force have been completed”.

I understand that to mean that, when the process has been gone through constitutionally in Rwanda and the UK—to ratify, as it were—each country notifies the other that that is the position, and the agreement immediately comes into force.

I then looked at what the Government said about what the implementation of the treaty means. We are privileged to have a statement by Mr Robert Jenrick, the much-lamented Minister of State for Immigration, in which he talks about the implementation of this treaty, as I understand it. He said:

“In addition, the Prime Minister has recently announced the intention to bring forward new legislation which will confirm that, with this Treaty, Rwanda is a safe third country”.

I read that to mean that the only thing required for implementation is the passage of this Bill. Therefore, on the passage of the Bill, the United Kingdom will notify Rwanda that the steps have been taken, and therefore it will, in effect, automatically come into force. I am sure that my understanding is imperfect, but that is how it reads. If the Minister could tell us what is in fact envisaged to satisfy Article 24 of the agreement, that would set my mind at rest. In particular, I am looking for and expecting something that will indicate that a Minister of the Crown is at the very least satisfied, after proper examination, that Rwanda has become safe. I imagine that is what is envisaged, rather than simply the passage of the Bill.

My second point on Clause 9 goes back to the opening of this group of amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. Clause 9(2) says:

“This Act applies to any decision by a decision-maker relating to the removal of a person to … Rwanda that is made … after the day on which” the Bill comes into force. As I understand it, if I came to this country and sought asylum before the Bill came into force and I have a good claim to asylum in this country—and at the time I came and made my application, there was no possibility of me being sent to Rwanda; for example, if I came because my family was here—as a result of the retrospective change in the law, I can nevertheless find myself being sent to Rwanda after I came here and made my application. Can the Minister confirm that my understanding is correct?

If my understanding is correct, this will be an Act of Parliament with retrospective effect. This country does not legislate retrospectively, unless there is a good reason to do so. My experience as a law officer was that, if the Government were minded to propose a Bill that had retrospective effect, they would take the advice of the law officers to determine whether it was okay to do that. I ask the Minister not to confirm whether he has sought the advice of the law officers but to explain to this Committee why the Government are asking Parliament to legislate retrospectively, as it looks as though they are doing.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 6:45, 14 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, aware of the hour, I rise very briefly, having attached my name to Amendment 81 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. I am now very clear that the noble Viscount’s Amendment 82 is an ingenious way of addressing the issue of temporality, which we have been circling around again and again. However, I shall simply address Amendment 81.

As I think the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, today we have been introduced to a phrase, “the court of Parliament”, that many of us, certainly myself, were not familiar with. Amendment 81 goes to the sovereignty of Parliament and ensures that Parliament remains sovereign in decision-making. Like other Members of the Committee on this side of the House, I will avoid venturing too far into the internal pains of the Conservative Party, but I think that a section of the party that has recently arrived in your Lordships’ House is very concerned with sovereignty, and it has never been terribly clear whether we are talking about parliamentary sovereignty or Executive sovereignty. Another phrase for Executive sovereignty, of course, might be “the exercise of arbitrary power”. The amendment overcomes that problem, makes it very clear and ensures what kind of country we want to live in.

There is another point I want to raise briefly, because what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said on the financial issues was very interesting. I must admit that I have not ventured into those issues because, quite frankly, I have been concerned with stopping the whole thing happening, so the financial aspect, the money, has already been thrown away and that is where we are. However, the point the noble Lord made about commercial confidentiality being allowed to cloud any sort of transparency about what is happening is an issue of concern. Those in other sections of your Lordships’ House will know that I and the Green Party have very strong views about the use of services provided for private profit for what should be care; after all, what we are supposed to be talking about is caring for refugees. Will the Minister say, without going into too much commercial detail, what percentage of profit the Government have allowed for in that contract? If that is said to be still too commercially confidential, what would the Government consider a reasonable level of profit for someone to make from the housing of these refugees in Rwanda?

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I also note the Clock and I will make points on the two headings. The first is on Amendment 81 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. The basis for it, according to the Member’s explanatory statement, is that

“This amendment replaces … (an executive act), with a parliamentary trigger”.

The proposal is that instead of having an executive fiat, Parliament and parliamentary sovereignty would be put in its place. Unfortunately, the amendment does not do that. What it does is to take the pen away from the Minister and hand it to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The reason is that the way this amendment is drafted is that two requirements need to be met. First, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has to report its belief that Rwanda is safe; in other words, if it comes to the conclusion that Rwanda is not safe, or might not be safe, then proposed new subsection (1A)(a) is not satisfied, and it falls there. The second requirement is that

“a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament”.

If, for example, both the other place and this House were to take the view that the Joint Committee on Human Rights had got it totally wrong and, in fact, contrary to its view that Rwanda was not safe, it plainly was safe, Parliament could do nothing about it. I am sure that is not what was intended, but it is a fundamental problem in the drafting and in the scheme if what is intended is to hand power to Parliament.

Just to make it clear, if that amendment were made to this amendment, I would still oppose it. The responsibility should lie with the Secretary of State. Let us be very clear about what this amendment would actually do. It would take the pen away from somebody who is elected and responsible to the electorate and hand it to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I have the greatest respect for the JCHR—I appeared before it when I was a Minister—but it is wrong in principle that it and it alone should have the right to stop this legislation in its tracks. That is the first point I wanted to make.

The second point I want to make arises out of Amendments 35 and 90 and the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, earlier that this is retrospective legislation. As we are in Committee—although many of the speeches seem to be Second Reading speeches—let me pick up one drafting point on Amendment 35. As I understand it, it would prevent a decision-maker making a decision relating to the removal to the Republic of Rwanda of somebody who arrived in the UK before the Act received Royal Assent. The words

“a decision relating to the removal” are very broad. Would they include, for example, a decision about how old somebody is? That is a decision that will be needed under the current legislation and under this legislation. I would have thought that it cannot be intended that Amendment 35 would stop decisions which have, so to speak, that dual purpose. That is a drafting point.

The more fundamental point is whether this is retrospective legislation at all. I listened very carefully, as I always do, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. With respect, I fundamentally disagree with him that this is retrospective legislation. What is retrospective legislation? The House of Commons Library puts it in these terms—this is from a paper it published in June 2013, but these are fundamental principles that do not change over time—citing Craies on Legislation, ninth edition. It says that retrospective legislation is generally defined as legislation which

“takes away or impairs any vested right acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, or imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect of transactions or considerations already past”.

The two classic examples are, first, that conduct which is lawful when you do it is not later made unlawful; and, secondly, that the penalty for unlawful conduct when you do it is not rendered greater retrospectively. It is right to say that we have legislated retrospectively in the criminal context—rarely, but we have. The War Crimes Act 1991 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001 are examples of that. However, none of this is retrospective legislation. The example the noble and learned Lord gave is that somebody might have an argument which they could put in court that, for example, “I’ve got a brother here, I’ve got somebody here”. That is not a vested right.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Llafur

No. The noble Lord has misunderstood my argument. You are in this country before the Act. You have a right in the sense that you are, in fact, subject to persecution. You would have to advance the argument to get the right, but your right is a right to stay here, and a right to stay not on the basis that you may be exported to Rwanda. That is a right. It might not be viewed by the law as a “vested right” in the sense that he is referring to, but it is plainly within the spirit of retrospective legislation.

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

A very good touchstone of when lawyers realise that—if I may respectfully say—the argument does not quite work is when they start referring to spirits of things. With great respect, that is not a vested right. If you have a right to asylum, you have a right to asylum. Under this Bill, you also have a right to asylum. What this changes is where you have the right to asylum.

Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The person who would have a right to asylum in the UK under this Bill would no longer have the right to asylum in the UK. It is completely different. They may have a right to asylum in Rwanda, but that is not the right that they had when they were here which is going to be taken away from them.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Llafur

Will the noble Lord explain why if I come here and am entitled to asylum that is not a right?

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

The right is to make a claim for asylum. That is the vested right absolutely. The right is the right to asylum.

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

It does not work if the noble Lord shouts at me when he is sitting down. I am happy to give way. I hear what he says—that it is the right to asylum in the UK, and I am respectfully suggesting that is not the case under the law. The hour is late, and we will no doubt come back to this.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Llafur

A right to have possession of my property requires me to go to court and get it. It is still a right, even though I have to ask for it.

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

I am sorry; that is totally different, because the courts—I will give way to the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Llafur

I think we have got to the heart of this. I am concerned about the time, not just for Members of the Committee but for the staff, just before the one-day half-term. I think perhaps the noble Lord opposite is indicating the difference he sees between, for example, property rights and humanitarian rights to refugee protection, which have been rights recognised in this country for a very long time.

Photo of Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Lord Wolfson of Tredegar Ceidwadwyr

Of course they are rights that have been recognised for a very long time, but that was not the point being put to me, as I understood it. On the property point, if you have property, you have a vested right in property. The court is declaring that you always have that right. First, you do not have a vested right in asylum; it is not a right vested into you. Secondly, the Bill does not take away a vested right you have. You still have the right of asylum.

I think the noble Viscount is saying that it changes it. The question was of retrospective legislation, which is a fundamental point raised by the noble and learned Lord. The question is whether this is retrospective legislation. For the reasons I have set out, I submit that it plainly is not. I apprehend that we will come back to this. I do see the time. Unless there are any other interventions, I will pause there.

Debate on Amendment 35 adjourned.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 7.01 pm.